Affirmed by Love; Luke 3:15-17, 21-22

How many sacraments does the United Church of Christ celebrate?  Don’t look ahead!  Do you know the answer?  Ask a pew mate.  See if they know.  Any more, or less than two is the wrong answer.  Yes.  Other Christian denominations have more.  No.  Marriage is not a sacrament in our tradition.  We celebrate Baptism and Holy Communion.  Both are, for us, about community, about being gathered and called by the grace of God and about sharing in the life of Christ.

For Baptism, it’s all about the water.  We all use water.  It’s just that some of us use different amounts.  It can happen at any age–from 1 hour old to 125 years–any age works.  And, you only get one…no do-overs.  Finally, baptism is a communal affair.  It’s a ritual and a sign about belonging to one another so, most of us celebrate baptisms during worship. Here’s a rundown of some of our practices.

THE WATER:  It cleans and purifies.  We speak of the one baptized as dying and rising with Christ.  Thus, the water is a vehicle for going under it and rising up.  Some people sprinkle water on the head of the person three times for each part of the Trinity, and some dip into the water with fingers and make a sign of the cross on a forehead, and some, like Reverend Amy Lignitz Harken, Minister, Mattapoisett Congregational Church, have baptized in the waters of the ocean.  You can read her story on the Massachusetts Conference blog.  She says, “Standing on a beach under an overcast sky was as much a naked expression of faith as an ashy forehead smear on Ash Wednesday.  And it moved them, and me, deeply.”

ANY AGE:  Our tradition makes it possible for infant baptism.  Parents speak the promises about faithful participation and discipleship and then, when the child is confirmed they repeat those promises.  But, anyone can be baptized at any age.  Who was the oldest person you ever saw baptized?

NO D-OVERS:  Some traditions say that you need to be baptized in their tradition.  We don’t believe that the still speaking God keeps records about what words were used by what denomination when everyone was baptized.  No do-overs are ever necessary.

If you want to know more about Baptism and the United Church of Christ, you can find resources by going to uccresources.com.

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The Amen/Ah-men is Missing!

The Amen/Ah-men is Missing!

Growing up in St. John’s UCC congregation, I looked forward to Sunday morning worship services when we sang the mighty hymns of faith.  One hymn in particular stands out from my early childhood, and that is “Holy, Holy, Holy” (hymn tune Nicaea).  I was too short to enjoy singing from floor level, when the congregation stood to sing, so my mother let me stand on the edge of the pew beside her where I had a good view of her hymnal as I joined in singing the words as I heard them sung by the congregation.  Every hymn ended with the singing of “Amen,” and I looked forward to singing that hearty word of affirmation (so be it) which marked the end of the hymns.

Over the years as hymnals were updated, I found “Amen” less often at the end of hymns, and eventually, “Amen” disappeared altogether except for a few choice selections.  Someone had changed our music!  I often wondered why the “Amen” disappeared.  Therefore I began to do some research which brought to light the origin of “Amen” as well as several of the arguments for eliminating the Amen from hymns.  Summaries include the following from the writings of Erik Routley:

In medieval times chants added amens to the final stanzas of hymns in praise of the Trinity.  The final verses were known as doxologies, which were praises to God.

In the Lutheran, Reformed, seventeenth and eighteenth-century Anglican, as well as several other religious denominations, the custom of adding amens to hymns did not exist.

Through the centuries, updated translations of hymns with poetic meter corresponding to the words in hymns, made the use of amens more difficult, and thus the amens were used less frequently.

It was not until the 19th century that adding amens came into vogue again, and practically every hymn tune contained amen.  (Hymns Ancient and Modern, 1861.)

However, in the mid-1960’s, the process of adding amens reversed, and they became less prominent.  By the middle of the 20th century, and the beginning of the millennium, amens were dropped entirely.  Music had changed significantly, and the affirmation at the end of the songs was not necessary.

In my opinion, there was, and is, something satisfying about singing the little musical “so be it” at the end of hymns. Therefore, I often find myself singing softly “Amen” at the conclusion of my favorites. “So be it!”

Sue Hardwick, Organist

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The Story of Life

Sometimes, people come into your life and you know right away that they were meant to be there–to serve some sort of purpose, to teach you a lesson, or to help you figure out who you are or who you want to become.  You never know who these people may be (neighbor, coworker, long-lost friend, college roommate, intimate friend, or even a complete strange) but, when you lock eyes with that person, you know at that very moment that he/she will affect your life in some profound way.

Sometimes things happen to you that may seem horrible, painful, and unfair at first but, in reflection, you find that without overcoming those obstacles, you would have never realized your full potential, strength, willpower, or heart.  Illness, injury, love, lost moment of true greatness, and sheer stupidity all occur to push you to the limits of your soul.  Without these small challenges, whatever they may be, life would be like a smoothly paved, straight, flat road to nowhere.  It would be safe and comfortable but dull and utterly pointless.

The people you meet who affect your life, and the success and downfalls you experience, help to create who you become.  Even the bad experiences can teach valuable lessons.  In fact they are probably the most poignant and important ones.  If someone hurts you, betrays you, or breaks your heart, forgive him/her, for he/she has helped you learn about trust and the importance of being cautious when you open your hearts.  If someone loves you love him/her back unconditionally, not only because they love you, but also because, in a way, they are teaching you to love and how to open your heart and eyes to many different and new experiences.

Make every day count!!!  Appreciate every moment and take from those moments everything that you possibly can.  You may never be able to experience it again.  Talk to people who you have never talked to before–and actually listen!  Let yourself fall in love, break free, and set your sights high.  Hold your head up because you have every right to.  Tell yourself you are a great individual and believe in yourself for, if you do not believe in yourself, it will be hard for others to believe in you.  You can make of your life anything you wish.  Create your own life–then go out and live it with absolutely no regrets.

Let 2019 be the year you begin like a lion and end as an even better lion!  Live life to its fullest and its best.  Be a unicorn in a parade of elephants.  Make this new year count in the best ways possible.

Pastor Carol

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A Prayer for New Beginnings by Walter Brueggemann

How fitting that the Epiphany season and the new year coincide!  Epiphany reveals a new King, the beginning of his ministry, his new disciples, his first healings, his “new teaching with authority,”  (Mark 1:27).  We, too, experience newness, now and year-round, but newness can be tough.  So, we trust that God, who “makes all things new” while banning “mourning and crying and pain,”  (Revelation 21:4-5), walks with us in the new year–and always.

…This is a time to be born.  So, we turn to you, God of our life, God of all our years, God of our beginning…We dare pray that you will do for us and among us and through us what is needful for our newness.  Give us the power to be receptive, to take the newness you give…There is a time to be born, and it is now.  We sense the pangs and groans of your newness.  Come here now in the name of Jesus.  Amen.

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This Week at St. John’s UCC

Centering Words for January 13:  O God, in your infinite wisdom, you knew we would need a Savior to guide us in the paths of righteousness.  We thank you, O Lord, and ask that you give us the courage to follow–no matter what the price.  In Christ we pray.  Amen

Sunday, January 13–Worship service, 10:30 a.m.  Pastor Carol’s topic: “Things a Christian Should Never Say…I am Forsaken”, based on Psalm 29.  The Second Sunday Potluck takes place in Oppermann Hall following the worship service.

Monday, January 14–Excellence in Ministry in church parlor, 10 a.m.

Tuesday, January 15–Ladies meet at LuLu’s, 9 a.m.; TOPS, 6 p.m.; Pastor Carol at MMH, 6:30 p.m.

Wednesday, January 16–Men meet at Arby’s, 8:30 a.m.; Choir practice, 7 p.m.

Thursday, January 17–Community dinner at Senior Center, 6 p.m.

Saturday, January 19–Bluffton food pantry distribution, 8 to 11 a.m.

Sunday, January 20–Installation of Consistory during worship; Board of Christian Education meets after worship

 

 

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Our Daily Bread Soup Kitchen

If you would like to volunteer for helping serve at Our Daily Bread soup kitchen in Lima on Tuesday, November 27 ,  please sign up on the bulletin board in the sanctuary.  Helpers are always welcome.

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Facebook Page

You are missing out on a super way to advertise our church if you are not sharing with many of your other Facebook friends St. John’s Facebook page.  There are many interesting articles posted every day.  “Friend” all of your friends and ask them to “Like” the St. John’s page–let’s let people know we are here, alive, and moving forward!

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St Johns Snow

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This website can now be found at www.blufftonstjohns.com!

In an effort to make this site easier for you to access, it can now be found at www.blufftonstjohns.com!  You can still find this page using the old web address, but now it will be easier to tell family and friends where they can find up-to-date news about St. John’s UCC in Bluffton, Ohio.

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